Alan Warner,
Morvern Callar
(Anchor, 1995; Bantam, 1997)

The success of Alan Warner's first two novels, Morvern Callar and These Demented Lands, have won him a place in the circle of young writers known as the "Scottish Beats" -- writers who are redefining postmodernism as we know it. Fittingly then, Morvern Callar can be called a finely executed foray into the darkest recesses of human motivation.

Morvern spends her days stacking produce in a supermarket and her nights popping pills and drinks in the rave scene on an unnamed Scottish coast. One Christmas morning, however, Morvern wakes up and discovers that her live-in boyfriend has committed suicide in the middle of the living room. Morvern gets up, gets dressed, opens her presents, and goes to work. After a few nights of hardcore partying with her best friend, Morvern comes home and disposes of the body. Once that nasty bit of business is taken care of, Morvern sells her boyfriend's novel as her own, raids his bank account and goes club-hopping along the coast.

It was at this point that I realized Morvern was one of the freshest characters I've seen in a while. Even though her moral code seems cold and almost inhuman, there's a quiet desperation to her search for meaning that comes out as the novel progresses. Warner's deft ear for speech and thought patterns gives us a believable voice; Morvern comes alive as the epitome of youth in the '90s.

This novel is not the faint of heart. Warner doesn't hold back in his depictions of the rave scene, or of Morvern search to relate to the people around her. Morvern Callar is truly one of the most original, inventive novels I've come across lately.

[ by Audrey M. Clark ]



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